THE Victorian state government is cracking down on unsafe work practices across government-funded construction sites with plans to table new regulations necessitating drug and alcohol testing to qualify companies tendering for contracts.
The amendments to the Implementation Guidelines to the Victorian Code of Practice for the Building and Construction Industry are set to tackle reports of widespread drug use and distribution, affecting workplace health and safety standards.
“The presence of intoxicated and drug affected workers on building sites presents a real and serious risk to the safety of hard-working Victorians,” Premier Denis Napthine said in a statement released last week.
“The Coalition Government takes workplace safety seriously, which is why we are moving to complement the current good work of the Victorian WorkCover Authority by requiring best practice management techniques from our construction partners.”
The Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CMFEU) has censured the move by the state government, insisting that reports of drug and alcohol use on Victorian construction sites are false.
Victorian secretary John Setka said the drug and alcohol policies already established in conjunction with employers were serving their purpose in protecting employees on sites across the state.
“There is no epidemic of drug taking on construction sites,” he said.
“Our health and safety representatives who look out for workers’ health and safety are not reporting a problem.”
CFMEU occupational health and safety manager Dr Gerry Ayers has criticised the government’s actions as prompted by speculation.
“If the government is going to develop sound policy in this area, it should be founded on robust, empirical and peer review, academic and scientific evidence and not on unsubstantiated claims and accusations,” Mr Ayers said.
“If the police have information about bikies selling drugs on sites, as is claimed in the press, then they should investigate and act on illegal activity.”
In addition to drug and alcohol testing, the Victorian Government will also mandate the use of best practice site security from tendering construction contractors, including the use of CCTV monitoring, biometric scanning and smartcard technology.
Premier Napthine expects the revised Implementation Guidelines to be in place by mid-2014.